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Quick divorce guide: The different stages of divorce


When you have made the decision that your marriage has irretrievably broken down and wish to divorce your spouse or civil partner, you must follow the divorce procedure. The process can be straight forward as long as both parties are in agreement to the divorce and the reasons which are behind it. During the divorce or dissolution procedure, your solicitor can also look at financial settlements but this will lengthen the process. It is very important to seek legal advice in relation to a financial agreement as a Decree Absolute Divorce does not end Financial Claims

What are the grounds for a divorce?

The first step in the divorce procedure is to complete the divorce petition. In England and Wales, the petition has five legal grounds for a divorce which you can use to support your case.

These grounds are:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable Behaviour
  • Two Years Separation with Consent
  • Two Years Desertion
  • Five Years Separation

The most common ground is Unreasonable Behaviour and this allows you to set out a number of allegations against your spouse.

What happens after the grounds for divorce have been defined?

Once grounds have been defined, you can expect some of the following actions to take

  1. The petition is then issued with the courts along with a fee and a certified copy of your marriage certificate.
  2. The petition will then be served upon your spouse with an Acknowledgement of service.
  3. The Acknowledgement of Service is sent with a copy of the divorce petition to your spouse which needs to be completed and returned within 14 days of the petition being posted. The Acknowledgement of Service will confirm that your spouse has received the papers, they are agreeable with the petition and the reasons for the divorce and finally whether they agree to the divorce or whether they wish to contest it.
  4. If your spouse chooses to ignore the petition, there are ways that we can look at serving the papers personally, for example a bailiff service.

What is a Decree Nisi?

The next stage is to apply for the Decree Nisi. This decree states that the court cannot see a reason why you and your spouse should not get a divorce. Once this has been applied for, the Decree will be pronounced and then a date will be given. This will be your pronouncement date. Neither party is expected to attend court for the pronouncement unless there is a dispute or the petition is contested. It is important to look at financial matters and try to finalise them. If financial matters are agreed a solicitor can prepare the appropriate legal financial agreement ‘Consent Application’ which can be lodged at court once the Decree Nisi has been pronounced.

What is the Decree Absolute?

The fourth step is to wait to six weeks and one day to apply for the Decree Absolute. This is the final decree which legally ends the marriage. If you do not apply for the Decree Absolute within 4.5 months of receiving the Decree Nisi, your spouse can apply for the Decree Absolute but there will be a fee to pay and application to lodge with court. Once the Decree Absolute is granted, you will then be divorced.

How long does a divorce usually take?

The divorce process usually takes around six months, but can take longer if you are unable to agree on finances and proceedings are issued, or the petition is contested. Once you are divorced, you are free to remarry and you should be thinking about revising or making a new will.

Want more advice on divorce and legal separation?

Take a look at our divorce, separation, and marriage annulment services to see how we canhelp you and your family.

It is very important to seek legal advice in respect of financial matters to ensure your ex-spouse can not pursue a financial claim against you in the future

Our team of friendly, expert divorce lawyers are here to get the best resolution for you.

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